[Today we have a guest post from Michelle Habrych.]
Why I Want my Kids to Experience Shakespeare:
My son was 9 years old when he had his first exposure to the works of William Shakespeare. My friend, Rita, was teaching a class at our homeschool group. I did not know much about Shakespeare except that it was so boring when I was in school. Rita, I knew from experience, could teach anything and make it fun. So J took her class.
That was six years ago. He always remembered the scene from Macbeth with the witches and often quoted, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” I had never heard of a kid quoting Shakespeare, yet here he was. And he was enjoying it.
Rita continued to offer Shakespearean-themed classes to our kids. She had reader’s theater featuring the Star Wars books written in Shakespeare’s style by Ian Doescher, followed by reader’s theater featuring historical plays. She also taught a high school class called Shakespeare’s Speeches in which students studied famous speeches.
I wanted to give my son a high school credit for Shakespeare, so I gave him a final project: choose a famous monologue, memorize it, and then perform it for our homeschool group’s end of the year program. He picked the opening bit by the title character in Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent.” He studied the meaning behind the words, worked on presentation, and amazed the audience. He is not a natural performer; Shakespeare brought him out of his shell.
J loves the stories, the language, and the history. He can’t get enough of the Bard. When we chose classes for this fall, J wanted more Shakespeare and signed up for both classes offered at our group (studying different plays). This past school year we took field trips to watch performances and viewed exhibits at a local museum, and we have two more field trips planned for this fall! Additionally, this summer he helped Rita with a camp of his peers who put together their own production of The Taming of the Shrew, and he was fantastic in his role as the fool.
When I asked Rita why people should study Shakespeare, she said he offered timeless stories about the human condition. Shakespeare offers “romance, comedy, blood, ghosts, fools, travels, wars, parties, dancing, eating, drinking, fairies, kings, crazy people, family craziness, family love and devotion, men vs. women, women vs. men—everything we humans do or do not experience.”
Rita suggests easing into the Shakespearean language. There are plenty of retellings of his plays written for younger listeners. She always says that Shakespeare is meant to be read aloud, and recommends using helps to understand, such as No Fear Shakespeare.
Don’t be afraid to teach Shakespeare. You may be surprised at how much your children enjoy it—and you will too!
Michelle Habrych slept through her high school years of Shakespeare, but she is now excited to enjoy local productions of his works. She is grateful to Rita for bringing these works to life for her family. Michelle is a homeschooling mom of 2 teens.
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)